Culturally insensitive patients - page 2

by tippytootagon 6,928 Views | 41 Comments

A little background: I am Chinese American. I live in a university town in the Midwest that is fairly multicultural, but that is also surrounded by farming communities that are generally 100% white and very insulated. I work... Read More


  1. 4
    My hospital is a melting pot. There are many black people employed there. However, I'm one of 3 black nurses on my unit, and the only black nurse on nights. Some of my patients are surprised when they learn my role, because it's not one typically occupied by black females in this hospital (i.e. housekeeping, PCA, lab, food service). This leads to questions that I do get tired of, but as long as I don't feel they are racist or disrespectful, I will answer them. Plus, many people aren't themselves when they're sick and in the hospital...I take it with a grain of salt.
  2. 2
    I think if you just explain that either a. you were born in America or b. state that you have been here since the age of (fill in the age) it would get the message across. I think for the most part people are just trying to make conversation.
    psu_213 and nrsang97 like this.
  3. 1
    Like most people have said, I wouldn't take it offensively unless your patients are being intentionally rude. Seems like good old-fashioned curiosity, and that isn't limited to one race or another.

    For instance, I am active duty and have moved 4 times in the past 2 years. I am a white American originally from the north, but my accent is a little strange because I have been assigned to duty stations on the East Coast and the South. People frequently try to guess where I'm from to no avail.

    I don't take it personally. I accept that I am a Yankee in a Rebel land with a strange accent, a penchant for slipping into East Coast jargon while spouting y'all's left and right, and that's bound to confuse people.
    salvadordolly likes this.
  4. 0
    How old are you?

    Years of dealing with this inures you to it. I have dealt with it for 40 years and don't care any more. People are stupid. Let it go.
  5. 1
    My accent is quite Northern and my southern patients spot it within minutes. I've lived in the South most of my life and I don't really notice an accent either way usually. It doesn't bother me to discuss that I am from up north. In fact, it gives me something to talk with them about instead of an awkward... "yeah, I guess I should know the answer to 'how are you feeling' is 'could be better otherwise I wouldn't be in the hospital'." I would answer politely and just tell them that you were born here and although you know about your heritage, you are much more familiar with the Midwest.
    nrsang97 likes this.
  6. 5
    Thanks for the replies. I don't take it as an insult. Like I said, I try to have a sense of humor about it. however, its frustrating when i politely correct them and they either say something like ,"oh come on, now where are you really from?" Or otherwise continue to talk to me like I'm a foreigner. I work on a neuro unit, so I suppose some short term memory loss may be at play here too.

    Thanks for your replies. I suppose I have to continue to let it roll off my back.
    pseudomonas, psu_213, eando, and 2 others like this.
  7. 2
    My grandmother embarassed the family often. She didn't have a problem with someone's color, but she had difficulty understanding anyone with an accent and preferred to cuss them rather than try to understand. I loved her because she was Grandma, but she was a cantankerous old bat even when she was healthy! Near the end, she had a catheter coming from her kidney and had to move into LTC. There, most of the CNAs had accents (mostly Filipino and Hispanic). The family was constantly apologizing for her. Most of these folks were very helpful and really sweet and trying their best to give her excellent care.

    I work for a very culturally diverse company and come into contact with people who have lived in many different places. I find people fascinating and love to learn about different cultures. Now, I've never told someone "you're English is good", but after we've had a few meetings and we're moving on to sharing a little personal conversation, I will ask someone where they're from and, if they're open to it, I may ask more questions about their culture (if they're from other countries or their families are). I have no wander lust myself and don't care to leave the comfort of my own country, but I like to hear how other people live. I explain my fascination to them and they are usually very happy to share.

    Some of your patients will be like my cantankerous old grandma but others are likely fascinated about learning about you. They don't know you're a boring American just like them.
    Not_A_Hat_Person and nrsang97 like this.
  8. 3
    Quote from eatmysoxRN
    My accent is quite Northern and my southern patients spot it within minutes.
    eatmysox - I'm in a similar boat. Raised in OK, I joke that twang is my first language. I only hear my accent now when I get upset or have recently been speaking to family from NC (then it's THICK). But, living in sunny San Diego, I encounter many people who hear it and even my family will stop sometimes and look at me with a crooked grin on their face because of something I've said. The two that come to mind off hand are...

    "I'm gonna thump your head in a minute" said to my middle child when he wasn't listening to me and
    "Would you get done already?" - I used that one often and never thought anything about it until my sis-n-law brought that one to my attention one day. Then I realized that really isn't proper grammar.

    I am proud of my twang, thank you very much, and I embrace it.
    carolinapooh, HouTx, and NurseDirtyBird like this.
  9. 0
    To the OP: The demographics of the area you are describing sounds eerily like a certain college town I know and love in Florida.
    Last edit by Akewataru on Apr 11, '13
  10. 1
    I look like my very fair-skinned blue eyed, white blonde Swedish dad, while my mom had dark olive skin and dark beautiful eyes. She was of English, Irish, and German descent. When I was with both parents or just my dad, people didn't say anything, but when my mom had me out in the world, people who didn't know both parents would either assume she was my nanny or make remarks like, "Isn't it nice you were able to adopt a blonde baby." or "I guess you'll have to tell her she's adopted eventually since no one would ever believe she's really yours." They were uninformed, idiots, thoughtless, but not intentionally cruel.

    My parents were both lawyers, but my mom saw people at home until I was about ten. After many many miscarriages and stillbirths, including my two triplet brothers, she was NOT about to entrust my care to strangers. No way! She was a family practice lawyer. She practiced what she used to refer to as "kitchen table law." She'd answer the door wearing jeans or khakis with a sweater or sweatshirt, and loafers or sneakers. Her waist length hair would either be in a French braid or in a ponytail. Her clients adored her because she immediately put them at ease. That is, the ones who didn't assume she was either my babysitter or nanny or the housekeeper.

    My husband grew up in the deep south and lived in France for several years. In exchange for teaching at a well known ancient university, his first PhD was paid for. We live in a rural area in the northeast and until w/he corrects the idea, most people think he's foreign. They assume he's French or Italian usually. If you ask ME, if I had to categorize his accent, it would be Southern. He never buys light bulbs, but rather light globes. He uses Y'all a LOT! He has almost every Gamecocks sweatshirt and t ever designed.

    I just remind myself sometimes that the average person isn't too observant and doesn't know much that's out of his own family-based experience. Hopefully, with the use of computers making us more global, that will soon change.
    nrsang97 likes this.


Top